Kate Stone: Tell us about your show Edinburgh Fringe Vivalicious.
Viv Groskop: This is a show all about my attempts to become my best self according to the gospel of Oprah Winfrey. And it’s about my realisation that I have been attempting this for 40 years and not only do I seem to have failed miserably but my own children seem to be better people than I have ever been, whilst making no effort whatsoever. I’m fascinated with the cult of self-help and with the human quest for self-improvement — and I’m entirely caught up in it myself whilst recognising how self-defeating it is. Why do we do these things to ourselves? I also explore the exciting possibility that if Oprah becomes President (not only of the US but of the world) then at least all my efforts will finally be recognised. Blessed are the self-improvers, for Oprah will grant them free yoga mats.
KS: This show seems quite invested in Oprah Winfrey becoming the next President of the US, do you think she’s just bluffing when she says she won’t run?
VG: She hasn’t clearly said that she won’t run. She has said that she will do it if she receives a sign from God. If someone could tell God to hurry up with the sign, that would be nice. I don’t rule her out of running for 2020 or 2024. Do you know who said repeatedly that they absolutely definitely would never ever run for President? Donald Trump.
KS: Are you a big fan of self-help books?
VG: Yes, I am a huge fan ever since my father gave me a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People when I was nine years old. This is a disturbing gift to receive from your parent but I took the hint, didn’t question it and became a better person as a result. Several thousand self-help books later, I am aware of the massive irony of continuing to read them. If any of them worked, the industry would have quickly died out. But I’m a bit like Mr Creosote with these titles. “Just one more wafer thin guide to finding your inner goddess…” I need a self-help guide to giving up self-help.
KS: You’re writing your own self-help book, How To Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking (out in November), what makes a good self-help author?
VG: A lot of the same qualities that make a good agony aunt — and I have thought about this a lot as I have been hosting the weekly podcast Dear Viv for The Pool for three years: patience, empathy, ingenuity. Most of all, you need to be able to give a range of options. And not just necessarily give the advice that works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to any problem. In How to Own the Room, I give ideas about what women can do to find their voice, boost their confidence and feel comfortable speaking up. There’s no magic bullet but there are hundreds of different ways to feel better about these things. It’s about knowing that you have options and finding the right one for you.
KS: You have described your children as your gurus, can you share some of their wisdom with us please?!
VG: It’s a good and a bad thing that my children are very well-adjusted human beings. I have three children, aged seven, 11 and 14, and they are all far wiser than I am. On the one hand, I guess it’s a sign that I have done a good job. Although I don’t really think I did much apart from administer Nutella. On the other hand, by comparison I come across as extremely inadequate. And you don’t want to feel inadequate next to a seven-year-old. The youngest one knows more about relationships than I do. On love: “I know what dating is. You go to the shop and buy some red wine. Then you go home and have romantic love. And then you eat goat’s cheese.” Don’t forget the goat’s cheese, guys.
KS: Who are your favourite funny women?
VG: Joan Rivers, Lucille Ball, Norah Ephron. All dead so I can’t get any kudos or favours from them for mentioning them but too bad. Wherever they are, may they know they are still loved and laughed at.
Viv Groskop is in Clover, Underbelly, Bristo Square from 1st-26th (not 13th) August at 16:10. For tickets and more information click here!